Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell – Jan 17

Thirteen members were present at this month’s Book Club meeting held at The Cloisters on Thursday evening 19th January at 7.30pm, with apologies received from those unable to attend, with some of their thoughts on the book too.  We began by giving our views on the book with a fair few members agreeing that it was on the whole a light-hearted, easy, predictable read, using a basic well used story although perhaps a little strangely written but noticeably one that had left everyone disappointed with the ending!!!!

Some of us also admitted it had taken a while to get into the book but the characters were well-liked generally, being interesting and well described.  The mother, Gretta, although not liked by all members, was felt had shaped the characters of the children – Monica, Michael Francis and Aoife – probably it was thought more so because she had been harbouring her own “dreadful” secret. It was agreed they were all very complex characters! A few members had also found it a little difficult to relate to Aoife’s problems as it had appeared quite obvious to us in 2017, that she was suffering from a profound dyslexia problem, which had caused most of her traumatic experiences in life.  But of course, it was pointed out that we had to remind ourselves that this was a proud Irish family in 1976!! This instigated a further thought provoking discussion of members experiences and memories on how true to life some of these matters really were back then, and of course as far as this book portrayed with the marriage issue (Gretta’s case), abortion (Monica) and many other things including Aoife’s educational problems just got swept under the carpet!!

The one character we did not really get to know was the father Robert!! Nothing was really explained about WHY? he suddenly disappeared then and in search of his brother at the Monastery and what triggered him to go at that particular time (possibly THE HEATWAVE??)  and again WHY? didn’t he contact anyone to tell them he would be back?  WHY?  WHY? It was also mentioned that even when you saw the eventual end, the author still kept you waiting for the end and then suddenly she stopped writing!!! BIZARRE !!

OH YES THAT HEATWAVE ???  A discussion emerged about why the book was titled “Instructions for a heatwave” Most members could not really “fit” the title totally to the book as although the heatwave lightly threaded its way through the story (we all related our own memories of it in 1976!) where did it really make sense to have this as its title? – confusing!  An alternative title it was agreed would probably have worked better for the storyline as the mainstay was really the family. The family did unite, the mother had tried her best to look after the family and Aoife was able to talk to her boyfriend in New York! But on the down side no questions were really answered maybe annoyingly a bit of a deliberate conundrum perhaps??

So in conclusion only a few members did, apart from the very disappointing ending, enjoy this book with the majority not enjoying it – although not really disliking it either!   No-one really felt they could recommend it to a friend this time.